The referees and linesmen are the officials who each week come under the scrutiny of the world press. In a game where the financial stakes are so high, the people who managers and players like to blame for poor results are often the officials of the game.
Every game that the referee and the linesmen are appointed to, they will have to try and control matches where players will attempt anything in order to win. Some people claim it is gamesmanship and others will say it is cheating. Whatever the true description is, the job of trying to control these matches is very difficult, and with every decision being scrutinized by camera, it is impossible to get every decision right.
This means that the officials often make the headlines as a result of their performances. Their wish is that the matches pass without little incidents, but this rarely happens, and they are often at the centre of much controversy.
It is not easy to understand why anyone would wish to do the job. The simple reason is that the officials love the sport and are willing to take regular abuse in order to share the pitch with footballers of great ability. Today the referees are full time professionals and are paid well to do their roles, but in the past they were part time often having other full-time jobs.
One of the most famous referees who had an interesting other job was David Ellery who was a referee to the highest standard including FA cup finals. During the week he was a geography master at Harrow school in North London. The school is a private establishment and one of the most expensive to attend.
It appeared rather strange that this “posh” school master was happy to be the subject of constant pressure from both players and fans. In his career he sent off Manchester United’s Roy Keane four times, yet when Ellery retired from officiating, the Irish international sent a signed shirt of himself to Ellery wishing him well.
Sometimes the referees who officiate the biggest games became as famous as the players. Graham Poll was one of England’s best referees, but he appeared to enjoy the celebrity attention he was receiving more than actually refereeing the matches. He was always being interviewed on the television and being quoted in the newspapers.
However, his fame caught up with him during a game where a major mistake on this part during a world cup game changed the course of a match. The game was between Croatia and Australia and he booked Josip Simic. This was the second time he had done so and should have sent the player off. Sadly, Poll had forgotten about the first occasion and he let the player remain on the pitch.
However, Poll’s embarrassment was nothing compared to that suffered by Paul Alcock after he had sent off the Sheffield Wednesday striker Paolo Di Canio. After receiving his red card, the Italian pushed the referee in frustration. Shocked at being shoved Alcock fell to the floor and received widespread publicity over the incident that he never craved. It is a thankless task being an official and people seem to forget that without them, there would be no game of football.